garden snail

Waiting in the Wings

Friday, 17th November 2000, West Yorkshire
dunnockA DUNNOCK perches on the hedge, flicking its wings and its tail. This display is associated with courtship, so a November morning, even a sunny November morning, might seem an odd time of year to see such behaviour but this little brown bird dunnock displayhas a colourful private life and, being a resident, it has the opportunity to sort out territory and relationships during the course of the winter, so that it can 'hit the ground running' when the nesting season arrives in spring.

In addition to its regular mate the female dunnock often keeps another male waiting in the wings.

Un Escargot en Hiver

(The Snail in Winter)

garden snail I'm bending down by the towpath to check that a small yellow flower is, yes, Nipplewort - it is usually taller than this but this plant has been flattened, perhaps in the recent floods that washed over the towpath. Then I notice a snail resting in a small plastic drainpipe that is set into the embankment wall. I can see two Garden Snails alongside each other and another one behind; and there could be more packed in behind them. The next three pipes also have snails lodged inside. I know that snails spend dry summer months in a state of torpor known as aestivation. Do they hibernate as well?

The Garden Snail is also known as the Common Snail, Helix (Cornu) aspersa.

Strolling on Stubble

It has been so wet and muddy for the last two months that it's quite a change to put on my old pair of trainers for my habitual afternoon excursion to the post office (what an exciting life it is being a wildlife illustrator. They fly the celebrated wildlife artist Alan Hunt out to sketch tigers and meet mountain gorillas, but I have to make do with a trip to the post office!). Taking a quick diversion along the towpath and over a stubble field I feel as if I'm back contact with the earth in these trainers in comparison with my stout hiking boots. The mud slickenslides beneath my feet, the line of stubble that I follow alongside the edge of a recently flooded field reminds me of a strandline of springy seaweed, slightly crunchy, beneath my feet.

Wouldn't life be boring if we had to walk over manmade surfaces - carpets and concrete - all the time. I find it a sensory pleasure striding over the stubble . . . perhaps I should get out more?

As Frances Cornford put it in To a Fat Lady seen from the Train (1910);
Why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
When the grass is soft as the breast of doves
And shivering-sweet to the touch?
O why do you walk through the fields in gloves,
Missing so much and so much?
next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

E-mail; ''